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Axon halts Taser drone plans : NPR

This photo provided by Axon Enterprise depicts a concept design through a computer-generated rendering of a Taser drone.

Axon Enterprise, Inc. via AP

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Axon Enterprise, Inc. via AP

Axon halts Taser drone plans : NPR

This photo provided by Axon Enterprise depicts a concept design through a computer-generated rendering of a Taser drone.

Axon Enterprise, Inc. via AP

WASHINGTON — Axon, the company best known for developing the Taser, said Monday it was ending plans to develop a Taser-equipped drone after the majority of its ethics committee resigned due to the controversial project.

Axon Founder and CEO Rick Smith said the company’s announcement last week – which prompted a reprimand from its artificial intelligence ethics board – was intended to “start a conversation about this as a potential solution. Smith said the ensuing discussion “enabled us to better understand the complex and important considerations” around the issue.

As a result, “we are pausing work on this project and refocusing to engage further with key stakeholders to fully explore the best way forward,” he said. The development was first reported by Reuters.

The board had voted 8-4 a few weeks ago to recommend Axon not proceed with a Taser drone pilot and was concerned about the introduction of militarizing drones into over-policed ​​communities of color.

But after the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, the company announced it was beginning development of the drone. Smith told The Associated Press last week that he went public with the idea in part because he was “catastrophically disappointed” with the response from police who did not intervene to kill the suspect for more than ‘one o’clock.

The council issued a rare public rebuke of the project, saying it was a dangerous idea that went far beyond the original proposal the council had considered for a Taser-equipped police drone. He said he “begged the company to stand down” before the announcement and that many believed he was “traded on the tragedy of the Uvalde and Buffalo shootings.”

Smith dismissed that idea in an interview with the AP last week and said he was pursuing because he believed the Taser drone could be a viable life-saving solution. He argued the idea should be shared as part of the public conversation about school safety and effective ways for police to safely confront bullies.

On Monday, nine members of the ethics committee, a group of highly respected experts in the fields of technology, policing and privacy, announced resignations, saying they had “lost confidence in the ability of ‘Axon to be a responsible partner’.

“We wish it hadn’t come to this,” the statement said. “Each of us joined this board with the belief that we could influence the direction of the company in ways that help mitigate the damage that police technology can wreak and better capture the benefits.”

“We tried from the start to make it clear to Axon that his client should be the community served by a police department, not the police department itself,” said one of the council members, Barry Friedman, professor of law at New York University. a meeting. “It’s been a painful struggle trying to change the reckoning there.”

Friedman said a major concern was Smith’s decision to go ahead with the plan and announce it publicly without adequately hearing council members’ concerns.

“What’s the urgency? School shootings are a crisis. I agree,” Friedman said. “But Axon, on his best schedule, isn’t going to come up with anything for a few years. Why was it necessary to go ahead like this?”

“What Rick is suggesting is that a necessary public dialogue was really jumping over the board’s head,” Friedman said.

In his statement, Smith said he was “unfortunate that some members of Axon’s Ethics Advisory Board have chosen to step back from engaging directly on these issues before we have heard or had an opportunity to respond. to their technical questions”.

“We respect their choice and will continue to seek diverse perspectives to challenge our thinking and help guide other technology options,” Smith said.


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